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05 Mar 21. DOD Official Says Budgetary Flexibility is Essential to Countering China Threat. A Defense Department official described China’s rapid success in advancing highly capable new technologies for its military, just as DOD’s own modernization efforts are hampered by budgetary restraints.
Michael Brown, the director of the Defense Innovation Unit, spoke today at a virtual Hudson Institute panel discussion on “Competing with China through Budget Agility.”
Brown said the Chinese are often portrayed as being skilled at copying Western technology.
They have 500 investing entities that mirror Western ways of raising capital, he said. They do venture capital, growth capital and private equity for example, just like the U.S. does. And, they’re trying to mirror what the U.S. has done with research, creating research parks, co-locating people and having startup investments.
Having said that, the Chinese are incredibly innovative, Brown said.
They’re doing a good job of bringing government, business and academia together, just like the U.S. did with the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Program and they’re building a very successful commercial economy, Brown said, offering some examples.
One of the satellites they launched in 2016, uses quantum science for secure communications. They’re using artificial intelligence in some of their weapons platforms. For instance, they now have anti-ship ballistic missiles that incorporate AI so that they can effectively evade countermeasures. They also have effective cyber capabilities and they lead the world in small drone production, he said.
“The [People’s Liberation Army] is not magical. There [are] inefficiencies in their bureaucracy, just like there are in ours. But they’re very focused and thinking about the long term. So I think it’s a mistake for us to dismiss their innovative capability,” Brown said.
Technology is at the heart of the great power competition with China, he said. “That tech race implies speed. We need to be moving at a rate of speed that ensures we’re not getting behind. There’s a first-mover advantage for these new technologies, both the adoption and production of those.”
Brown said China is beginning to take the lead in new technologies like 5G, AI, biotechnology and autonomous systems because their system allows them to move big and to move fast.
The department has a budget cycle that requires years, from requirements to production. Brown said the department should have much shorter timelines like the private sector.
Besides moving faster, the department needs more flexibility in how it spends the money. For example, Brown noted that DOD funds are placed in a variety of pots and it’s illegal to take money from one pot and move it to another one, even when an urgent need arises. Another example is the “use it or lose it” rule, that money has to be spent on a program and if it’s not, that program will not receive funding in subsequent years.
“It’s a completely mismatched system for what the competition with China calls for,” Brown said. “You can learn a lot by adapting to what the private sector has already perfected.” (Source: US DoD)
05 Mar 21. Ripping F-35 costs, House Armed Services chairman looks to ‘cut our losses.’ The House Armed Services Committee chairman railed at the expensive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter on Friday, saying he wants to “stop throwing money down that particular rathole,” ― just days after the Air Force said it too is looking at other options.
“What does the F-35 give us? And is there a way to cut our losses? Is there a way to not keep spending that much money for such a low capability because, as you know, the sustainment costs are brutal,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said a Brookings event.
Air Force officials recently said they are conducting a study to find the best mix of fighters including Lockheed Martin’s F-35, Boeing’s F-15EX and a replacement for the service’s oldest F-16s. Smith was thinking along similar lines.
“What I’m going to try to do is figure out how we can get a mix of fighter-attack aircraft that’s the most cost effective. And I am telling you right now a big part of that is finding something that doesn’t make us have to rely on the F-35 for the next 35 years,” he said.
Though the Joint Strike Fighter was conceived as a relatively affordable fifth-generation aircraft, it’s generally acknowledged as the world’s most expensive weapons platform. Flying the F-35 currently costs $36,000 per hour, and it has a projected lifetime cost of $1.7trn.
As of January, the F-35 was still struggling to meet its goal mission-capable rate, which is the percentage of aircraft that can meet at least one assigned mission. Only 69 percent met the threshold, well short of the military’s longstanding 80 percent goal.
While the F-35 was designed to replace the F-16 — among several other aircraft variants — Air Force officials said this month they were exploring less expensive options, including buying new F-16s from Lockheed, evaluating low-cost tactical drones and pursuing a clean-sheet fighter, as described by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown in February.
In broader remarks emphasizing more modest, cost-effective goals for the military, Smith said Congress must “seriously scrub” the Pentagon’s big-ticket weapons programs. Though Smith holds a powerful job, the F-35 enjoys strong support in Congress, and the lawmaker lamented that the country seems to be locked into the program.
“We have wasted a spectacular amount of money on weapons systems that either haven’t worked at all or who have not lived up to their promise,” Smith said. “The failure we wind up tolerating is failure on a massive freaking scale. Think F-35.”
In a statement to Defense News, Lockheed spokesman John Torrisi pointed to U.S. Marine and Air Force deployments of the jet and that it has flown more than 1,000 combat missions.
“We look forward to continued engagement with Chairman Smith and other key members of Congress on the vital F-35 program during the coming Defense Authorization and Appropriation cycle,” Torrisi said. “The F-35 is the most survivable, connected fighter in the world today.”
One of the reasons the Air Force is reevaluating the F-35 program is a tacit acknowledgment that the flat budgets projected in the near future may not allow the service to buy all 1,763 F-35s in its program of record.
The F-35 remains the “cornerstone” of the fighter fleet that the Air Force is pursuing, Brown told reporters during a Feb. 25 roundtable. However, he said there are “cost pressures” on the program.
“The reason I’m looking at this fighter study is to have a better understanding — not only the F-35s we’re going to get, but the other aspects of what complements the F-35 in looking 10 to 15 years out,” he said. “I want to make sure we have the right capability. That includes [the option of] continuing to buy the 1,763 [F-35s] like we’ve already outlined, but we also have a look at it to make sure it has the capability we need with Block 4 [upgrades] but also is affordable.”
At the same time, the service also needs capacity to support operations in the Middle East or other tasks such as defending U.S. airspace — missions that don’t require stealthy fifth-generation fighters that are more costly to operate.
“Geopolitics change faster than our programs of record. [With] the geopolitics we have now … frankly we need a significant capacity,” said Gen. Mark Kelly, who leads Air Combat Command.
“In a perfect world … a budget-unconstrained environment would have a huge number — capacity — of huge capability fifth-gen airframes for every squadron in the combat air forces. The challenge with [that] is the reality of fiscal requirements of a nation that is coming out of a pandemic and the impacts of it, and the demand signal of being really busy around the world.” (Source: Defense News)
05 Mar 21. Austin Outlines His Top 3 Priorities on Defense, People, Teamwork. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has announced his top three priorities for the Defense Department: to develop the right people, priorities and purpose of mission. According to a memorandum from his office, the mission is to continue to defend the nation from enemies, foreign and domestic.
“This will require aligning our priorities and capabilities to a changing and dynamic threat landscape,” the secretary said in the memo. “We will do so in a way that is based on a sober assessment of our strategic needs and recognize the importance of building and sustaining a strong workforce and unity within our department, across the nation and with our allies and partners around the world.”
Austin’s three priorities — defending the nation, taking care of our people and succeeding through teamwork — will guide our efforts, he emphasized. Following are the priorities under his leadership:
DEFEND THE NATION
- Defeating COVID-19 is the greatest proximate challenge to our nation’s security. The DOD will continue to act boldly and quickly to support federal government efforts to defeat the disease, defend the force against it and work with our domestic and international partners to protect our nation from potential novel and deadly viruses of the future. The DOD will continue to give direct support to the government’s vaccination efforts and encourage military personnel to get the vaccine to remain ready to protect the nation globally. Both challenges demand an aggressive DOD effort to inform and educate people about protective measures and the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
- Prioritize China as the Pacing Challenge: This is DOD’s No. 1 pacing challenge, and it will develop operational concepts, capabilities and plans to bolster deterrence and maintain its competitive advantage. The approach toward China will be coordinated and synchronized across the enterprise to advance DOD’s priorities — integrated into domestic and foreign policy — in a whole-of-government strategy, strengthened by DOD’s alliances and partnerships and supported on a bipartisan basis in Congress.
- Address Advanced, Persistent Threats: In addition to addressing China, the DOD will remain ready to respond to and effectively deter nation-state threats emanating from Russia, Iran and North Korea, and disrupt transnational and non-state actor threats from violent extremist organizations — such as those operating in the Middle East, Africa and South and Central Asia. The DOD will seek to impose cost where necessary, while using all of its tools to lower the risk of escalation with its adversaries and respond to challenges below the level of armed conflict. The DOD will continue to maintain credible deterrence against advanced threats, and “right-size” its missions around the world in a transparent, principled manner.
- Innovate and Modernize DOD: The department will be innovative at a speed and scale that matches a dynamic threat landscape, requiring advances in joint-warfighting concepts and a commitment to rapid experimentation and capabilities fielding. The DOD will divest itself of legacy systems and programs that don’t meet its security needs any longer, while investing smartly for the future. The DOD will improve the efficiency of the force and guarantee freedom of action in contested, complex operating environments.
- Tackle the Climate Crisis: We face a growing climate crisis that is impacting our nation’s missions, plans and capabilities and the DOD must take immediate action. In line with President Joe Biden’s direction, the DOD will elevate the climate as a national security priority, integrating climate considerations into DOD’s policies, strategies and partner engagements. The DOD will incorporate climate-risk assessments into war-gaming, modeling and simulation, and bolster mission resilience and deploy solutions that optimize capability, and reduce our carbon footprint.
TAKE CARE OF OUR PEOPLE
- DOD will Grow its Talent: People are the department’s most-critical asset. We remain the preeminent fighting force in the world because of our personnel in and out of uniform. “I have never had more confidence in our ability to meet the security challenges of today and tomorrow,” Austin said. To maintain that advantage, the DOD will build opportunities for growth and development, invest in training and education and create new opportunities for advancement that drive promotion and retention for our total civilian and military workforce. The DOD will build out a range of skills and capabilities in the workforce and remove barriers that limit its people from realizing their full potential as partners in the department’s work.
- Build Resilience and Readiness: The DOD maintains and enhances force readiness and develops capabilities to protect America when it fully embraces a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and thought. The DOD will lead with its values, building diversity, equity and inclusion into all aspects of its work. Inclusivity will drive innovative solutions across the enterprise and create a constructive environment in which every person has the space to contribute fully. The DOD will never spare support for its people, and will protect the safety, health and welfare of service members and their families, and civilian employees. The DOD will also work closely with the president, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the interagency to ensure that it properly supports our veterans and their families long after they have served their duty.
- Ensure Accountable Leadership: Some behaviors are antithetical to our values, undermine our readiness, and put our effectiveness at risk, but are alive within our workforce. Leaders at every level will be responsible for building a safe environment for DOD people and guaranteeing swift and clear accountability to anyone who does not act within the highest standards of the department. The DOD will not tolerate sexual assault and sexual harassment. Extremism also presents a complex and unique challenge to the DOD, which the department must meet head-on working to permanently stamp out extremism in the ranks. Both efforts and others will ensure that we provide every member of the department a safe and supportive place to serve their country – one free from discrimination, hate, harassment and fear.
SUCCEED THROUGH TEAMWORK
- Join Forces with our Allies and Partners: U.S. allies and partners form a force multiplier and one of the greatest strategic assets we have in protecting our nation. Facing complex challenges that span across borders, the department’s success will depend on how closely we work with our friends around the world to secure our common interests and promote our shared values. We cannot meet our responsibilities alone, but rather, we will consult with our allies and partners and, when appropriate, we will act together. Where one country may lack the unique capabilities of others will fill that void, making us stronger as a team than the sum of our individual parts.
- Work in Partnership with Our Nation: Protecting the nation requires teamwork at every level — state, local, tribal and federal. It requires cooperation from all with a stake in our national security: our interagency, Congress, private industry and the American people. It also requires leading with diplomacy, the nation’s primary means of engaging the world, and our first national security tool of choice. The DOD will redouble its commitment to a cooperative, whole-of-nation approach to national security that builds consensus, drives creative solutions to crises, and guarantees that we lead from a position of strength, fielding a credible force, ready to back up the hard work of our diplomats around the world and our national partners.
- Build Unity Within DOD: To guarantee the DOD remains the greatest joint-fighting force in the world, we will continue to build unity of effort and mission across components, commands, services and theaters. We will ensure meaningful civil-military cooperation, safeguarding the proper balance of civilian and military inputs to our policies and missions. The DOD will demonstrate teamwork at its highest and expect it across every level, because working collaboratively will ensure the greatest success in protecting and defending the nation.
“As I said in my confirmation hearing, we need resources matched to strategy, strategy matched to policy, and policy matched to the will of the American people,” Austin said, adding that focusing on his priorities will help us develop policy, fashion strategy, and acquire resources.
“I hope you will consider how you can assist in that effort,” the secretary said. “Thank you for your service to our country and for your commitment to our national security. I look forward to working with each one of you as we build a department ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow, together.” (Source: US DoD)
05 Mar 21. It’s time to rethink foreign military sales. After decades of arming some of the Middle East’s least responsible states, there are tentative indications Washington may finally be rethinking its approach.
Upon taking office, one of President Joe Biden’s first foreign policy decisions was to impose a temporary freeze on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, pending a review of their potential effects on the ongoing Yemen conflict. And at the end of February, his administration followed up by imposing sanctions on multiple individuals involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, while also indicating that a more permanent ban on the sale of offensive weapons to the Saudis may be in the offing.
These are encouraging moves, although their ultimate outcomes remain to be seen. But the problems with weapons sales go beyond the Persian Gulf: As American companies pursue their efforts to arm much of the world, a record volume of defense exports has led to increasing humanitarian and strategic costs for the United States. The review of sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE therefore presents an opportunity to reassess our broader approach to the arms trade — one the Biden administration should not hesitate to seize.
The task will not be easy. Weapons exports are big business, and the vast network of defense companies and government bureaucracy that has grown around them will make changing the status quo a complicated affair. This is not to mention the fact that Biden is taking office after arguably the most enthusiastically pro-arms sales administration in history, one which leaves as its legacy the relaxation of export restrictions and the identification of “economic security” (read: ginning up business for weapons makers) as an explicit goal of U.S. arms transfer policy.
Even before President Donald Trump, foreign military sales were putting large quantities of weapons in indiscriminate hands. In Yemen, many of the munitions that have been used to devastating effect on combatants and civilians alike — including the laser-guided bomb that killed 40 children on a school bus — were authorized for export and sold during Barack Obama’s presidency.
And in one of the first export decisions of his term, Biden’s State Department approved a $200m sale of missiles to Egypt mere hours after condemning Cairo’s detention of a prominent dissident’s relatives. The Philippines also receives hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. weaponry, where President Rodrigo Duterte has overseen thousands of extrajudicial killings, political arrests and related human rights violations.
Beyond the humanitarian costs, our approach to foreign military sales is also creating strategic problems. In Eastern Europe, for instance, the past few years have seen the U.S. provide major weapons systems to virtually every country other than Russia or Belarus. By flooding the region with advanced weaponry, we risk fueling an arms race between NATO-aligned players and Moscow, which in turn increases the likelihood conflict will erupt.
These sales also weaken Washington’s ability to control a tense geopolitical situation, creating the possibility that some emboldened (and well-armed) partner may drag the U.S. into an unpleasant, “tail wagging the dog” scenario.
Turkey offers another cautionary tale. Despite receiving billions in U.S. arms over the past several decades, Ankara has recently become a destabilizing force in the Eastern Mediterranean, using its increasingly well-equipped military to menace fellow NATO members France and Greece at sea and meddle in multiple civil wars.
Turkey also purchased the Russian-made S-400 air defense system, a move which has enraged U.S. policymakers and triggered frenetic (though so far fruitless) attempts to reverse the decision.
In the wake of such failures, a rethink is clearly needed. And a precedent exists, although one must go back before World War II to find it. In 1934, the Senate established the Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry, or the Nye Committee. Its purpose was to assess the role of arms manufacturers and private commercial interests in shaping foreign policy, particularly as it pertained to U.S. entry into World War I.
Though the Nye Committee failed to turn up evidence of criminal activity, its report did identify several disturbing facts: Arms makers wielded undue influence over U.S. government officials; their overseas representatives often paid bribes to secure business; and (most ominously) these companies consistently exerted their influence at home and abroad to oppose projects for peace and disarmament.
Of course, the situation has changed significantly in the subsequent 85 years. When the Nye Committee began its investigation, the United States was only the fourth-largest arms exporter. Today, we are No. 1 by a wide margin, providing the world with 36 percent of its military hardware (Russia is a distant second, accounting for 21 percent).
The influence of the arms industry has grown correspondingly larger; top defense companies now spend tens of millions of dollars on lobbying annually, and the “revolving door” between industry and government means that the same people are often crafting and benefiting from our defense policy.
Despite these differing circumstances, something akin to the Nye Committee today could help realign our policy with both ethical and strategic imperatives, identifying and building support for much-needed reforms.
Some fixes — like the removal of economic criteria from export objectives or the more stringent treatment of particular defense articles such as drones — could be accomplished via executive action. Others, like the imposition of stricter humanitarian standards or the expansion of Congress’ role in the Foreign Military Sales process, may require legislation. (In fact, a number of such proposals have already been introduced.)
Managed appropriately, defense exports can be a powerful tool of statecraft, strengthening allies and improving America’s international position. But as the last few decades have shown, this is unlikely to happen without vigilant, external oversight.
“War is too important to be left to the generals,” former French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau is supposed to have quipped. In a similar vein, arms sales are too important to be left to the military-industrial complex. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
05 Mar 21. Agile Product Management: How To Build Weapons Faster & Better. Combining agile software development with product management is the secret weapon that can help the DoD maintain America’s innovation advantage — and protect its global preeminence.
F-35 production line
Among the reasons for America’s military preeminence is the quality and effectiveness of its weapons. During World War II the key to allied victory was the country’s remarkable ability to bend metal and build huge quantities of tanks, Jeeps, trucks, airplanes and ships. Today, many senior defense officials and industry experts say weapons are software first and metal second. That makes software development incredibly important, and, because software gets developed much faster than hardware, there’s great pressure to build faster. Our authors, both experts in software and technology, present their formula for meeting the conflicting demands of code and chips and hardware development. Read on! The Editor.
America’s global preeminence will be tested this decade as never before, because, for the first time in a half century, our innovation advantage is at risk. “U.S. superiority in key areas of innovation is decreasing or has disappeared,” the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in its policy questions for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at his nomination hearing.
For the longest time our innovation and dominance has been rooted in matching the best military forces with the delivery of technically advanced, complex manufactured systems like satellites, fighter jets, and aircraft carriers.
With the shift towards cyberspace operations and field employment of Artificial Intelligence (AI), America’s adversaries are opportunistic risk-takers relatively unconstrained by international law. Their barriers of entry regarding cost, complexity, and technology are much reduced. Adversaries can work with the same agile methods, frameworks, and software libraries that we do! This just might give them an edge over us, so how do we stay ahead?
We go big. Even within the cyber, AI and software domains we need to continue to reach farther and have greater levels of integration than our adversaries. Integrated collection, analysis, decision support and effects is harder for adversaries to replicate and in the field it keeps us more focused, faster, and harder hitting than anyone else. This level of integration introduces complexity to the point where agile software development methods, and the “five really smart engineers” approach just isn’t enough. Silicon Valley and startups across the country have been fueling their software and systems innovation by embracing agile software development methods and matching them with the wider aperture and rigor of product management. It isn’t just an app; these companies are creating complex products.
DoD has focused on agile as a way of running projects — setting up teams with some goals and funding. Ramping up resources, appointing a scrum-master and running sprints. Then winding everything down again once the backlog is effectively done or funding runs out. To truly harness the transformative power of agile, DoD’s methods must inform strategic thinking and long-term planning, as well as short-term project cycles. Teams need to start thinking of agile as a way to do product management.
Combining agile software development with product management is the secret weapon that can help the DoD maintain America’s innovation advantage — and protect its global preeminence.
Like it or not, robust cyber weapon systems and aircraft carriers are complex weapons and both need to move at the speed of software. Done correctly, Agile Product Management achieves the speed and responsiveness to evolving needs provided by agile software development, while also helping to handle the complexities associated with suppliers/providers, large and complex integrations, and a wide ecosystem of stakeholders typically seen in mission critical defense and intelligence systems.
Agile Product Management can truly transform the way an organization performs — with practical results that matter more in a huge organization like the Defense Department than in a tiny startup.
The unrelenting pace and the flat organizational structure that agile requires reveals where the handoffs and interdependencies are in the value chain – exposing bottlenecks and blockages which otherwise might not have been apparent. It also helps reveal and render manageable risks in any technology development.
There are five principles DoD leaders can adopt to ensure the success of Agile Product Management.
EMBRACE CONCERNS Agile reveals risks and problems faster than other approaches, like waterfall, so it’s important to provide teams the safety and space to address problems, as well as view them as opportunities to improve.
- CONTINUOUSLY EVALUATE PRODUCT PROGRESS Knowledge is not linear in the software world, It’s not a matter of understanding how to do something, and then doing it. It’s a continuous learning journey where, at any given moment, you are putting your current best knowledge into the product. One can be successful in executing sprints and delivering working software, but in the end the product must also meet the wider vision and goals.
- SET DECISION MAKING AND AUTHORITY AT RIGHT LEVEL Push decision making down to the level of greatest expertise. Empower your practitioners and listen to them. Knowledge workers need ownership of their projects — give it to them. Encourage feedback on the overall product with your wider community.
- STAY AGILE WHILE KEEPING EYE ON THE PRIZE Products are concurrently in development and operations. Products have components sourced from a range of internal and external organizations. Successful product management includes integrating and prioritizing efforts across multiple streams of activity. Without this there will be lags within the value stream or product features that miss the mark from an end user perspective.
- LEAD Agile is not easy; there will be friction. It requires leadership — pushing through, creating an environment where your vision is clear so people understand their collective purpose and have permission to use their skills and abilities to innovate and solve problems.
The stakes could not be higher. Successfully embracing Agile Product Management is the key to maintaining our technological edge — and the strategic preeminence it powers.
Ian Fogarty is a managing director at Accenture Federal Services for technology and operations. George Franz, a retired major general who was former director of operations for U.S. Cyber Command, is a managing director at Accenture Federal Services for cybersecurity and defense.
(Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
04 Mar 21. Lawmakers aim to prevent sea-based nuclear cruise missile. Two Democratic lawmakers are introducing legislation to kill the nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile set to begin development next year and its associated warhead.
Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a lead appropriator, and House Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Joe Courtney, of Connecticut, planned Thursday to unveil the bill, a copy of which was obtained by Defense News. It’s the latest sign of pressure on President Joe Biden from his own party to scale back nuclear plans formed under the Trump administration.
The bill would prohibit research and development, production, and deployment of the missile, known as the SLCM-N, arguing that the Obama administration found a similar weapon, the TLAM-N, redundant and retired it. The lawmakers say the cost of the SLCM-N would top the Congressional Budget Office estimate of $9bn.
In a statement, Courtney said that installing nuclear warheads on Virginia-class attack subs would sap resources from growing the Navy’s fleet and distract from the core mission of attack submarines in the Pacific and European theaters, where they are typically laden with ship-killing, conventional Tomahawk missiles.
“This legislation is a common-sense bill that will stop the hemorrhaging of precious Navy dollars for a wasteful program that Congress barely debated.” Courtney said.
The Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture review revived the weapon to bolster nuclear deterrence against Russia and China. Officials launched an analysis of alternatives to develop the weapon and hoped last year to begin a formal program of record in the fiscal 2022 budget request.
Conservatives are likely to push back in support of the program and other nuclear weapons spending, as the Heritage Foundation’s Frederico Bartels argued in a policy paper Tuesday in favor of robustly funding nuclear modernization programs, and advancing the SLCM-N.
“As the strategic environment is projected to worsen, it is critical that Congress avoid dilatory maneuvers in the form of further analysis, and instead support initial research and development for a SLCM-N,” the paper reads.
Separately on Tuesday, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., called on Biden to cancel the program as well as the submarine-launched, low-yield W76-2 warhead, fielded under Trump. They also asked Biden in a letter to “pause further development of” the controversial Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.
In September, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman the engineering, manufacturing and development contract for GBSD, which would eventually include more than 650 missiles and cost about $264bn over the program’s life span. By 2029, GBSD will begin replacing the Minuteman III, which Pentagon officials say is too old for a life extension.
Markey and Khanna also urged Biden to adopt a “no first-use” doctrine for nuclear weapons, which Biden has previously said he would review.
“The United States can retain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent which is also affordable and enhances our national security,” they wrote. “In making necessary changes to the U.S. nuclear posture and force structure, your administration can best reflect the hard, cold reality that there is no such thing as a winnable nuclear war.” (Source: Defense News)
04 Mar 21. What the Pentagon’s top policy nominee thinks about nukes, Iran and other priorities. Colin Kahl, the Biden administration’s nominee to be undersecretary of defense for policy, faced tough questioning at a Thursday hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. But while questions about partisanship and past tweets dominated the event, there were still some inquiries that give insight into how Kahl will approach his job if confirmed.
The USD-P role is often described as the third-most powerful civilian job in the department, with a wide-ranging portfolio. Among the responsibilities: formulating policy for homeland defense, nonproliferation and arms control, and regional policies for areas covered by the combatant commands; reviewing war plans; regularly attending interagency meetings as the top representative from the Department of Defense; and handling bilateral relationships with allies.
Here were some highlights from Kahl’s appearance before the committee:
Iran: Kahl is known as having a major part in the creation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, most commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. During the Trump administration, he continued to defend the agreement in public comments. So it is no surprise that a significant amount of time was taken up to discuss the agreement, which was and remains a major target for Republican members of Congress.
Kahl continued to defend the deal, saying that the decision by the Trump administration to leave the agreement sped up the “breakout time” needed by Iran to achieve a nuclear weapon. However, he stressed that does not mean working toward a new nuclear agreement precludes the U.S. from taking aggressive action, whether by additional sanctions or military strikes against Iranian-backed militias if needed.
“It’s absolutely essential we prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon. It’s also essential we prioritize the protection of our forces” even while pursuing diplomatic efforts, he said. “We have to remain vigilant against the other threats Iran poses.”
Nuclear weapons: Aside from Iran, the biggest policy question facing Kahl came from multiple Republican members trying to lock him down in support of nuclear modernization — specifically the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, which is set to replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.
The future of the GBSD is developing into a major target of progressive Democrats, who argue the Minuteman III could receive a life extension instead of replaced with a new program, which is expected to cost more than $260bn over the life of the weapon.
Kahl broadly showed support for the nuclear triad, saying there is “nothing more important to our national survival” and that “the triad has been a bedrock of deterrence and stability for many decades, and my personal position is that the triad remains a critical hedge against the possibility of technological modernization by our adversaries.”
However, when asked about specific programs like the GBSD or a new nuclear cruise missile, Kahl was more cautious, saying that while he has no reason to doubt public statements from U.S. Strategic Command that GBSD is necessary, he wants to see the classified information about the program before weighing in.
While that line echoed statements from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who both were careful not to endorse the GBSD program wholeheartedly, it drew ire from several senators, including ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who gave extra time at the end of the hearing for Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to press the GBSD issue.
While Cotton, who has said he will vote against Kahl, pushed the nominee on the GBSD issue, Kahl denied he was being “evasive.”
He explained that he has been out of government for four years and doesn’t have access to classified information. “So it’s something I’ll have to get a classified assessment on including the capabilities, the costs and the life-extension program.”
Kahl also twice during the hearing said he does not believe a “no first use” nuclear weapons policy makes sense for America.
National Defense Strategy: The USD-P is the lead official for the creation of the NDS. Kahl called the 2018 version “excellent,” particularly for its focus on great power competition with China and Russia, but added that tweaks are likely needed.
The DoD “should consider geo-political shifts, intensifying competition with China, transnational threats (including climate change and COVID-19 and other biological threats), and the evolving technology landscape in its review and development of the next NDS,” Kahl wrote.
He also noted that the 2018 document assumed “sustained defense budget growth and anticipated a rebalancing of U.S. commitments from the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific region, though neither has fully materialized,” a sign that hard choices within the department may be part of the NDS process.
Asked to rank the greatest regional areas of focus for the department, Kahl said the Asia-Pacific is “No. 1 with a bullet,” followed by Europe and the Western Hemisphere, before noting “we need to right-size our presence in the Middle East and Central Asia.”
He also said the document should address the effect climate change might have on operations, energy resilience and DoD installations.
Climate change: Speaking of which, Kahl said that for the department, “climate change is going to change everything” and will be a major priority going forward — something already outlined by Austin in a late January memo.
“It will change the operational environment for the military in strategically vital areas like the Arctic. It’ll create new contingencies for humanitarian emergencies and violent conflict that the department may be called upon to respond to,” Kahl said. “Extreme weather is already costing billions of dollars here at home to our DoD infrastructure, and that will increase in the years ahead, at home and abroad.
“And of course there are real questions about energy resilience, especially in the context of great power competition. So for all those reasons, I think climate has to be integrated into our defense strategy.”
Arms sales: The Biden administration is currently reviewing a number of weapons sales to foreign governments that were cleared under the Trump administration, with a pair of sales to Saudi Arabia already halted.
Asked whether a broad review of arms sales to non-democratic governments makes sense, Kahl said: “I do. I think our arm sales need to be aligned not just with our national interests but with our values. … You have my personal commitment that if I’m confirmed, I will treat the issue urgently because it’s important to me.”
Civilian control of the military: Although it did not come up in the hearing, a major issue facing the Pentagon for several years has been tension between uniformed members of the military and civilians working in the policy shop. In written advanced responses to questions from senators, Kahl said he is committed to ensuring the civil-military balance is properly maintained.
He also raised concerns about the policy shop having shrunk by 25 percent over the last decade, the result of a congressionally ordered headcount reduction at the department.
“I am concerned about these cuts, and if confirmed will review [the policy department’s] missions and current staffing levels to determine whether the professional civilian staff is sized appropriately and whether it is able to recruit and retain an experienced, talented, diverse workforce that can effectively carry out the Secretary’s vision for meaningful oversight of the military,” Kahl wrote. “If necessary, I will seek additional personnel to be assigned permanently to Policy so that we can effectively pursue these national security missions and improve civilian control of the military.” (Source: Defense News)
04 Mar 21. Key Republicans press Biden to hike defense budget 3 to 5 percent. House Armed Services Committee Republicans have laid down a new marker in what’s expected to be a testy budget cycle, urging President Joe Biden to increase the defense budget by 3 to 5 percent, adjusted for inflation.
The eight lawmakers, led by HASC ranking member Mike Rogers, sought the increase in a letter to Biden obtained by Defense News, calling it a prudent investment to stay ahead of China and other evolving threats.
“As you prepare your administration’s fiscal year 2022 (FY22) budget for submission to Congress, we urge you to reject demands from many on the left to cut or freeze defense spending at current levels,” they wrote.
“The next four years are going to be a crucial turning point for our military and our nation. If we do not make the investments our military needs today, we will not be able to defend our nation or our allies in the future.”
The position is significant because Biden ― who is expected to offer a flat budget after years of growth under President Donald Trump ― is under pressure from progressives to slash defense spending in favor of domestic needs. Because a group of Democrats typically vote against defense spending and policy bills, Democratic leaders will likely need to bargain with Republicans to attract enough votes to pass those bills.
Rogers, R-Ala., has said previously that he wants to see a 3 to 5 percent increase, which echoes calls from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., officials under the Trump administration and the recommendation of the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission. Rogers was joined in the letter by the seven ranking members of each HASC subcommittee.
What a 3 to 5 percent increase means exactly isn’t clear in the letter. If the request pertains to the Defense Department’s base budget, which was $636bn for fiscal 2021, that likely amounts to an increase of anywhere between $32bn (to reach $668bn) and $45bn (to reach $681n), said defense budget and aerospace expert Todd Harrison, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
At the time Trump administration was already planning on a $698bn base DoD budget with no growth above inflation after moving $45bn overseas contingency operation funding into the base budget. Assuming the Biden administration does the same, then a 3 to 5 percent increase growth above inflation would actually mean a base budget totaling $719bn to $733bn, Harrison said.
The conservative Heritage Foundation’s recommendations for the annual National Defense Authorization Act, released Wednesday, says 3 percent real growth means an FY22 national security budget of $778bn, while a 5 percent real growth rate would equal $793bn. (The NDAA includes Pentagon accounts and the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs.)
Fiscal 2022 is the first year without the spending caps that have shaped Washington’s budget negotiations since the 2011 Budget Control Act. At the same time, the deadly COVID-19 pandemic has pounded the country’s economy while Washington has passed trillions in new spending to fight it―a trend that’s likely to pressure defense, the single largest category of discretionary spending.
The HASC Republicans argue the Budget Control Act “undermined military readiness, set back efforts to modernize the force, and gave our adversaries the time necessary to gain significant advantages that now jeopardize our military superiority.” Meanwhile, Beijing’s increased spending, transformed its military into a “modern fighting force capable of winning regional conflicts.
“If we do nothing, over the next decade, China will fully modernize its military, potentially bringing it into parity with our own,” they wrote.
They urge Biden to “make key investments that will modernize the force and fill ongoing readiness gaps,” focused on cyber warfare, nuclear triad modernization, growing the Navy ― “and quickly incorporate the latest innovations and enhancements into warfighting capabilities, including air and sealift, space, missile defense, munitions, and electronic warfare.”
Republicans and Democrats, including HASC Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., have also talked about reprioritizing emerging technologies and cyberwarfare.
“The security of the free world depends on a credible American military,” they wrote. “We look forward to working with you to ensure the men and women of our Armed Services have the resources and support they need to successfully carry out their missions now and for decades to come.
The request earned some immediate pushback from the Project on Government Oversight, which noted that defense leaders have said the country’s top national security priority is responding to COVID-19.
“Americans around the country are being asked to do more with less,” said POGO Director of the Center for Defense Information Mandy Smithberger. “And the DOD Inspector General found as recently as this week that DOD isn’t recovering money owed. DOD’s mission is to protect our country, and doing that is going to require them to curtail their appetite for endless taxpayer dollars.” (Source: Defense News)
04 Mar 21. Pentagon struggles to add cybersecurity to weapon contracts, watchdog finds. The U.S. Defense Department struggles to outline cybersecurity requirements in contracts for weapon systems, though the agency made important strides to improve those platforms’ cyber protections, a congressional watchdog announced Thursday.
A report on five major weapon platforms across the military services found better security measures than in 2018, when the Government Accountability Office’s last review said cybersecurity practices for the weapons were inadequate.
Still, the GAO found security gaps in the acquisition process, with three of five programs reviewed lacking any cybersecurity requirements in their contract awards. The Air Force was the only service with broad guidance to define cybersecurity requirements and incorporate them in contracts.
The findings come as the federal government grapples with the fallout from a security breach through an IT contractor that raised concerns about potential access to sensitive systems and possible supply chain security weaknesses.
The watchdog reviewed five weapons systems: a radar program, an anti-jammer, a ship, a ground vehicle and a missile. Four areas had improvement in the last three years. Programs reported that they had greater access to cyber expertise, completed more cyber assessments, used additional cybersecurity guidance, and improved tailoring of cyber requirements to mission needs.
“Officials from these acquisition programs reported having a greater focus on and more resources committed to cybersecurity in several areas, including greater access to cyber expertise and increased use of cyber assessments,” the report said.
Senior officials also noted progress with security controls and guidance.
“While it is too soon to determine whether these efforts will lead to more secure systems, they are further evidence of DOD’s commitment to improving weapon systems cybersecurity,” the report stated.
For the contract process, the GAO said the other military branches could benefit from an approach similar to the Air Force, outlining service-wide cybersecurity requirements for acquisitions.
The watchdog recommended the Army, Navy and Marines “develop guidance for acquisition programs on how to incorporate tailored weapon systems cybersecurity requirements, acceptance criteria, and verification processes into contracts.”
Overall, DoD acquisition programs developed new policies and guidance documents to improve weapons systems’ cybersecurity, the GAO found. However, some programs didn’t clearly define cybersecurity activities that would lead to acceptance or rejection of the system. Some didn’t outline how the department would verify cybersecurity requirements.
Officials interviewed by the GAO said that “effectively” contracting for cybersecurity is a challenge for acquisition programs. One senior DOD official told the watchdog that “standardizing cybersecurity requirements is difficult and the department needs to better communicate cybersecurity requirements and systems engineering to the users that will decide whether or not a cybersecurity risk is acceptable.”
Another official said the “lack of clear performance criteria for cybersecurity requirements creates challenges for understanding and implementing better security.”
The Defense Department agreed with the GAO’s recommendation for the Army and Navy, while partially concurring with the idea for the Marine Corps, stating that the Marines and Navy should merge their efforts because they operate under the same acquisition structure.
“Ultimately, DOD’s success in improving weapon systems cybersecurity depends on the extent to which the military services and acquisition community execute these changes to produce better outcomes in their programs,” the GAO wrote.
In one effort to improve weapons’ cyber safeguards, the Defense Innovation Unit, the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley arm, is developing a system with cybersecurity company ForAllSecure to continuously probe platforms for vulnerabilities. The company started working on its testing platform, called Mayhem, after the 2018 GAO report. (Source: Defense News)
03 Mar 21. Flat defense budget, cost-savings push seems likely for 2022. The Defense Department will likely have to look even deeper for cost-savings as flat budget looms for 2022 and beyond.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the chairman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that while topline budget numbers don’t adequately reflect value, the Pentagon and military services should look for cost-savings and where reinvestments can be made.
“One of the ironies of the Budget Control Act was that it was designed to reduce the deficit but after a while it actually became a force to, I think, increase spending because Republicans want strong defense spending. We’re 50-50 split and we would get strong domestic spending and ironically it led to the budget you’ve seen the last few years. That’s now gone,” Reed told reporters Feb. 24 during a Defense Writers Group virtual event.
“The topline number may not be the best guide of are we getting value for the money, and that’s what we’re going to try and look for. What are the systems that provide real advantages going forward, what programs and policies make us stronger as a nation.”
Reed wouldn’t divulge a rough topline number for the upcoming 2022 budget, but said budget pressure will likely squeeze all areas of government spending beyond DOD, especially as COVID-19 related spending increases with the Biden administration’s upcoming nearly $2trn economic relief package.
Reed surmised that “tighter” future budgets mean making judicious calls despite bidirectional tugs from Republicans who support increased defense spending and some left-leaning Democrats calling for dramatic cuts.
“We’re going to look at and have to justify whatever we put in the budget,” Reed said, adding that he was confident that bipartisanship support would prevail. “We have to be able to show what we’re asking for makes sense.”
But things could get complicated as military services are asked to look for cost-savings as some members of Congress hesitate to eliminate legacy programs.
“There are legacy systems which all of the services have asked us to eliminate and there’s certain reluctance because they are stationed in our home states or they have impact,” Reed said.
“There are steps that every service can take to save resources and reinvest those resources…that’s the first step, what can we generate internally.”
Part of the quest for cost-savings for legislators, which comes as DOD re-delegates duties of the now defunct chief management office that was charged with the matter, will come from acquisition reforms, including sustainment costs and the procurement process, Reed noted.
“We have to change the way we do business, we have to be able to connect with small companies,” the senator said, “we have to cut down on the long, long [procurement] process, we have to look at the issues of how do we effectively protest contracts, for example.” (Source: Defense Systems)
03 Mar 21. Official Explains DOD Data Strategy. Joint warfighting is at the heart of the Defense Department’s Data Strategy, released in October, the DOD chief data officer said.
David Spirk was the keynote speaker at FCW’s Digital Government Summit, today. The topic was “The Defense Data Strategy and its Commandments.”
The strategy has three focus areas, he said:
- Joint all-domain operations, which is using data for an advantage on the battlefield;
- Senior leader decision support, which is using data to improve DOD management;
- Business analytics, which is using data to drive informed decisions at all levels;
From those focus areas, are eight guiding principles, he said:
- Data as a strategic asset;
- Collective data stewardship;
- Data ethics;
- Data collection;
- Enterprise-wide data access and availability;.
- Data for artificial intelligence training;
- Data fit for purpose;
- Design for compliance.
From those guiding principles, there are four essential capabilities, he said:
- Talent and culture.
Of those four essential capabilities, the one Spirk said he’s spending the most time on is talent and culture which poses some questions: “How do we get healthy? How do we get data literate in the department so that we can start understanding what those eight guiding principles are so that we can foot-stomp and understand what having an open data standard architecture is, versus trying to create a list of standards that you will adhere to?”
Ultimately, those four central capabilities get the department to the point of making its data visible, accessible, understandable, linked, trustworthy, interoperable and secure, he said.
Making data secure at the department is important, he said.
Spirk said that yesterday he spent a lot of time making data trustworthy with his partners in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, where they are designing a new dashboard for chief data officers.
The dashboard, he said “is where we qualify our data as green, yellow or red, based on its completeness, based on its consistency, so that we can begin grading ourselves as we move into predictive — and eventually prescriptive — decision-making opportunities.”
The idea, he said is to make better use of data to drive department decision making. Even if only 40% of data is being utilized, that’s still better than zero, but the idea is to up the percentages through shared best practices.
Spirk also mentioned the importance of partnerships across the government. For instance, he said he speaks with and sometimes meets with his counterparts in agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs and the State Department.
“We talked about some really interesting cross-department collaboration opportunities that we’ll be following up on soon,” he said, mentioning his visit to the State Department yesterday. (Source: US DoD)
02 Mar 21. U.S. ready to help EU speed up troop movement to meet Russia challenge. The new U.S. administration wants to help the European Union move troops and equipment more rapidly across Europe to deal with a potential conflict with Russia.
Massive Russian war games on the eastern flank of military alliance NATO in recent years have raised concern over a potential conflict accidentally triggered in eastern Europe, before U.S. and Canadian reinforcement can arrive.
A European military source said that the United States, Canada and Norway, all NATO members outside the EU, had sent a request last week to participate in a European project dubbed “military Schengen” for the EU’s border-free zone.
It is one of 46 “permanent structured cooperation” (PESCO) projects aimed at deepening military cooperation within the European Union. Countries outside the bloc have been allowed to join these projects since November 2020.
Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell confirmed the U.S. request on Tuesday, adding Washington was also considering cooperation in other PESCO projects.
“U.S. participation provides added value to the project given U.S. expertise in force and material movements across Europe and can lead to an increase of unhindered movement of military personnel and assets within European borders,” he said.
Washington’s request to join is seen as a sign of President Joe Biden’s wish for a closer engagement with European allies after the standoffish approach of his predecessor Donald Trump.
Conflicting laws across 27 EU countries as well as bridges and tunnels too narrow or weak for tanks or heavy equipment are obstacles to military movements, NATO commanders say.
The European military source said U.S. help might come in the form of financial support or participation in exercises and that EU defence ministers would discuss the offer in May. (Source: Reuters)
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